When you think Nintendo, it's likely that Zelda, Mario and maybe Kirby are the first things that leap to mind. But the fact is, the gamemakers at Nintendo know how to create good family-friendly games without those famous brands in the mix.
Arms, for the Nintendo Switch, is one of the latest creations to aim for that happy-kid sweet spot—this time offering a different twist on the fighting genre.
Did You Just Hit Me With Your Hair?
Nintendo gives us a cast of colorful, whimsical characters who get their licks in without a lot of typical beat-'em-up gaming problems. There's no blood, no painful-looking bone breaks, no fighter gals in barely there costumes. Instead, you get an initial roster of 10 charming spring-based fighters: guys, girls, robots and a, uh, stretchy, sentient blob thing called a Helix.
Instead of standing toe-to-toe and whaling away at an opponent with fists and feet, these fighters have long, stretchy appendages that spring out at a foe, curling and bouncing their way across the large ring. Characters have different—well, fists they can choose from, too, each incorporating different elemental effects or weights that effect the gameplay.
Some are powered-up boxing gloves, for instance, that deliver a blast of electricity, fire or ice when they make contact. Players can choose missile-launcher-like mitts and heavy hammers, slow-bouncing balls of blorb and small, fast homing projectiles, too. And players can charge their attacks as well, to give them a temporary bit of extra wallop. When any of them make contact, the recipients can be sent cartwheeling … but they always, uh, spring back into the fray.
Fly Like a Ribbon Girl, Sting Like a Barq
The characters can draw on unique sets of moves and attributes, too.
Ribbon Girl can jump a couple times while in mid-air, for example. This skill helps her steer clear of an opponent's attack while she rains down blows from above. The stealthy Ninjara can quickly teleport from place to place. Meanwhile, the slowly lumbering Master Mummy can absorb a lot more punishment, deliver the most heavy-hitting grab-and-throw attacks and can regain some lost health just by putting up his dukes to block. The robo-battler Byte even has a robot-dog sidekick named Barq who joins in and tosses out a few bops, too.
It's all designed to give players an impressive layer of depth to reach for if they want to develop a variety of dash, block, throw and attack moves, all in an effort to throw their pugilistic opponents off balance. On the other hand, if your local family room fighter is too young to think that strategically, there's still enough punch-a-button-repeatedly stuff here to keep those youngsters in the fun.
Along with those one-on-one battles with a friend or an AI single-player foe, Arms offers a couple other modes to experiment with. There's a target practice mode that lets you rehearse your moves and arm control. A multiplayer arena event lets you play with three other combatants. A Grand Prix mode matches you against 10 AI battlers in a quest for a championship belt. There are even creative games of volleyball and basketball that toss a few new wrinkles into a "fighting" game.
Any Blows Below the Belt?
If your family can't stomach fighting games at all, of course, Arms is not for you. But otherwise, the only potential disappointment with this game is the fact that any player who loves a good story behind their fighter is pretty much out of luck. The game intros each of the battlers with some hints at who they may be, but there isn't any in-game story mode to flesh things out. You just pick your favorite champ and climb into the ring.
Of course, that's a pretty light list of potential negatives: no Mario and no story mode. But there is plenty of color, plenty of creativity and plenty of fun in this game. Which tends to be the way mom and Nintendo like it.